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UK to send hundreds of troops to Russian border

Published 08/07/2016

David Cameron is to announce Britain's military support at a Nato summit in Warsaw
David Cameron is to announce Britain's military support at a Nato summit in Warsaw

The UK will deploy hundreds of troops in response to growing concerns over Russia’s presence on its border with the Baltic states, David Cameron is set to announce.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon says 650 troops will be sent to eastern Europe to help Nato in its mission to “deter Russia from any further aggression”.

A battalion of 500 soldiers will be sent to Estonia while 150 troops will be based in Poland, Mr Fallon confirmed, with the UK assuming leadership of Nato’s standby force early next year.

He continued: “[Eastern Nato countries] feel enormous pressure from Russia doing large exercises on the border, flying over their airspace and so on.

“I think [President Putin] is flexing his muscles. He wants Russia to be treated as the world power it used to be and that’s why an alliance like Nato is very, very important, that we stand together.”

Mr Fallon added that the UK had a duty to “reassure those countries” of continuing Nato support.

Nato has reiterated its commitment to install four new battalions in eastern Europe, a promise made following Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 which caused international outrage.

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At a summit in Warsaw, the prime minister said the UK’s involvement is “yet another example of the UK leading in Nato”, as Britain attempts to reassert its position on the world stage following the referendum vote to leave the European Union.

Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg re-emphasised the need for the organisation “to respond” to Russia’s use of force against countries on its borders.

Meanwhile at the end of June, British personnel joined Nato’s largest military drill in Ukraine near the Polish border, an exercise designed to fine-tune joint combat operations.

The drills saw 2,000 soldiers, helicopter gunships and armoured fighting vehicles take part in a series of staged war games, simulating battle conditions.

In June the US activated a missile system in Romania that it says is aimed at protecting Europe from ballistic missile threats.

The system has been under development for years and is aimed against potential long-range threats from the Middle East, according to officials from the US and Nato.

But the development angered Russia, which is opposed to having the advanced military system in such close proximity.

The US and Nato said the missile shield, which is able to track and shoot down incoming missiles, is purely defensive. However Putin has said that the anti-missile facilities can be easily repurposed for firing short and midrange missiles.

Moscow claims the missile systems are aimed at neutralising Russia’s offensive capability – an accusation the Pentagon has repeatedly rejected – and also claimed that the Deveselu’s MK 41 launching systems it uses could be re-equipped with offensive cruise missiles.

Meanwhile  on Thursday German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s plans for a greater troop presence near the Russian border as a necessary deterrence measure.

Chancellor Merkel described Nato’s plans for four battalions as a “deeply defensive concept” to warn Russia of the organisation’s commitment to protecting its nations.

On Wednesday, it was reported Russia was seen assembling military personel at crucial bases near Kaliningrad, a crucial outpost between Poland and Lithuania, raising fears of a potential face-off with Nato troops in the near future.


Independent News Service

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From Belfast Telegraph